JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City police and city leaders are discussing the possibility of cameras being added to public areas downtown to curb crime.
The discussion took place during Thursday night’s City Commission meeting. During the meeting, locations in the downtown area and at the Mall at Johnson City were brought up.
Johnson City police report crime has increased in the downtown area since 2018. To help curb crime, the police department is proposing cameras be strategically placed throughout five main areas of downtown.
“We’re getting a lot more people visiting the downtown area. We’re not saying the downtown area is not safe by any means,” JCPD Criminal Investigation of Division Commander Capt. Kevin Peters said.
Assault, theft, and vandalism are said to be the most prevalent crimes happening across downtown, according to the police department.
“There’s quite a few thefts from motor vehicles. There’s some assaults that happened from late-night incidents of people in the bars and leaving the bar areas. We’ve had some altercations that have broken out in the parking lot, where there’s a large group of people leaving,” Peters said.
One way the department is hoping to keep downtown safer is by inserting cameras in the most highly active areas, which include Main Street, Spring Street, and Tipton Street. The cameras in the Downtown Square and Cherry Street parking lots would be able to recognize license plates if a crime were to happen. Some cameras will be multi-sensor cameras, rotating to 180 degrees, 270 degrees, and 360 degrees.
“We want the public to feel safe and secure when they visit the downtown areas,” Peters said. “If we can use these cameras as a crime deterrent then it helps us out. We’ll also use them as an investigative tool should something happen down there.”
The use of cameras in the city has already been implemented by the city’s traffic division, but during Thursday night’s commission meeting JCPD Chief Karl Turner explained more need to be added.
“A lot of those cameras have helped us with everyday things that we deal with: traffic crashes at some intersections — both parties state that they have the green light. The physical evidence is very difficult to tell who has the right of way and who was at fault and we’ve been able to go back and view footage from those traffic cameras that are already in place,” Turner said.
City Commissioner John Hunter added, “Part of our strategic plan as the commission is quality of life, and so one of those things is making sure that we provide the downtown area that feels comfortable and safe for those who visit — both that live in Johnson City, but also come to visit Johnson City as well.”
JCPD proposed the cameras be placed on Main Street, Spring Street and Tipton Street. The blue cameras in the above graphic, located in the Downtown Square and Cherry Street lots, would be able to recognize license plates.
“Along with that, before the pandemic, the festivals in the downtown area, we were averaging to two to three festivals a month, in the downtown area, so it just helps us out as far as manpower,” Peters said. “We might not have to place as much manpower down there if we can have somebody remotely viewing the area.”
If approved by the commission, the total cost of these cameras, installation and setup would be about $73,000.
These cameras will be linked to a system that can be accessed by the police and public works departments.
At the next commission meeting, Johnson City police and public works are planning to bring another proposal, which would be having more street lighting in downtown.
Both proposals on cameras and lighting will then be part of budget considerations for the upcoming fiscal year.